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April 21, 2014

Do You Believe in Intuition?

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”—Albert Einsteinintuition

Intuition is something that cannot be proven; despite this, many people believe in it and use it for decision making. It’s often referred to as a “gut feeling,” as if it resides inside the body like an invisible organ, or a “flash of insight,” like a lightning bolt in the brain. So, what is intuition? Does anyone know? Do you believe in it or do you debunk it as New Age woo-woo?

Cognitive scientists—experts who study the mind and its processes—treat intuitive insights as quick, initial assessments of a situation. The brain recognizes repetitive patterns, especially in areas that we focus on and have experience with. The more you know about a subject or situation, the more familiar you are with it, and the faster your brain can make assessments and find solutions based on your experience. In other words, intuition comes as a by-product of knowledge and experience. For example, an experienced physician can often tell something is wrong with a patient before running a single test. A law enforcement officer can “feel” if something is “off” about a crime scene, even if he or she cannot specifically say what is wrong.

Since intuition draws on what you know and brings past experiences into your present awareness, it can help you form possible solutions that logic and linear thinking may not reveal. It can be a valuable tool in decision making.

Does this mean you should rely on intuition alone? Probably not. But it does mean that intuition has a valid place in decision making. Take those “gut feelings” and “flashes of insight” seriously and evaluate this with your more rational mind for better decision making and problem solving. (See my blog post Tune into Your Intuition for more information.)

 

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